Civil unrest forces out Ecuador's president

From Wikinews, the free news source you can write!
Jump to navigation Jump to search

Thursday, April 21, 2005 Amid unrest in the Ecuadoran capital city of Quito, President General Lucio Gutierrez has been removed from his office by congress. Vice-President Alfredo Palacio was voted in unanimously by deputies to replace Mr Gutierrez who is accused of abandoning his post.

The BBC reports Gutierrez left the presidential palace by helicopter after sparking protests when he tried to overhaul the Supreme Court. He is now in the Brazilian embassy in Quito where he has applied for asylum (, as confirmed by the Brazilian department of foreign affairs.

In the worst political turmoil experienced in Quito in nearly a century, panic is evident. Many families have rushed to supermarkets to stock up in anticipation of further violence. The cause of this panic is the sudden escalation of violence in the protests and anti-government demonstrations that have been underway for a week.

Protests began as a reaction to the government’s unconstitutional appointment of a partisan Supreme Court. Last week, the inability of the Congress to resolve the problem led broadcaster Radio La Luna to call for a spontaneous demonstration against the government by the citizenry, without the intervention of politicians. The success of this demonstration caused it to be repeated each night when thousands of people went into the streets singing and banging on kitchenware.

On Friday, President Gutierrez, a self proclaimed "dictocrat" (dictator for the opposition but democrat to his supporters), declared a state of emergency in Quito, and suspended all civil liberties in the capital. (In the past, this president has not shown himself to be a friend of the constitutional order, and was part of a 2001 coup which overthrew President Jamil Mahuad). The president sent armed forces to shut down Radio La Luna, but when the troops were met by thousands of unarmed civilians, they stepped down. The President was forced to cancel the state of emergency within 24 hours given the tumultuous uproar.

The government instead called its supporters from the provinces to come to Quito and fight the protesters in the streets. Renan Borbua, one of the President's staunchest allies in Guayaquil, announced that buses packed with cudgel and machete-wielding thugs were on their way to Quito. Quito’s Mayor Paco Moncayo, and the prefect of Pichincha declared the highways closed and refused the ‘thugs’ a way into Quito. Nonetheless many government sympathizers were reported near the capital, looting stores and destroying parked automobiles.

The government also ordered the National Police to suppress the protesters, a move leading Quito’s mayor to declare that the National Police were no longer viewed as legitimate in the city. Also as a response to the President’s order, the Commander of the National Police resigned in protest, but was promptly replaced by the President’s own cousin. So far the Police have killed one person, a Chilean reporter, and injured hundreds. Roads are blocked, and numerous fires have been started as a response to the Police’s use of riot-gas.

It is unclear where the Ecuadorian military stands on this issue. Both sides have claimed its support. Ecuador’s provinces have been declaring themselves for or against the government, and depending on the ultimate position of the military, civil war looms as a dire possibility in everyone’s minds.

Related news